Jackson Del Ray

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Philip Drucker, alias Jackson Del Ray, is a curious and somewhat mysterious figure whose music is undeservedly little known. Drucker was an art student who first came to most people's notice as a founding…
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Philip Drucker, alias Jackson Del Ray, is a curious and somewhat mysterious figure whose music is undeservedly little known. Drucker was an art student who first came to most people's notice as a founding member of Savage Republic. The band was originally known as Afrika Corps, but Drucker needed to borrow the money to make their first EP from his mother, a practicing Jew who refused to fund a band with a name that had anything to do with Nazi symbolism. The name was changed, the album released, and Savage Republic was on their way to, if not stardom, a respected place in the indie underground scene. The band was initially musically primitive, with frequently out-of-tune instruments backed by percussion as simple as Drucker pounding on a 50-gallon oil drum, but there were hints of Greek and Middle Eastern music in their sound. As the band matured, these elements became more pronounced, but so did the rivalry between guitarist Bruce Licher and Drucker over who was in charge of the band. A close associate remembers that virtually every rehearsal ended with a bitter argument, or at least with one member of the band sulking in a corner somewhere.

Drucker quit at least twice only to rejoin the band, and in 1982 he started a side project called Seventeen Pygmies with fellow Savage Republic alumnus Robert Loveless and drummer/vocalist Debbie Spinelli. The release of the Hatikva EP in 1983 showed that the new band was vastly more sophisticated than the old and gave a strong clue regarding the source of the more interesting elements in Savage Republic's sound. The Middle Eastern stylings on Hatikva are much more pronounced, and both the songs and arrangements are much more sophisticated. Seventeen Pygmies released two more full-length records, Captured in Ice and Jedda by the Sea, which gradually moved away from the folk influences and toward a soft, distanced, and melancholy sound. Somewhere in between his participation in both bands, Drucker found time to start a record label, Nate Starkman and Son, which released recordings from several important local bands including the Red Temple Spirits and Drowning Pool. Meanwhile, his own career was heating up. Savage Republic was still releasing records but Seventeen Pygmies was making much more interesting music, and in 1988, they released their masterpiece, entitled Welcome. This exotic piece of cabaret rock received rave reviews and major-label interest, with Virgin Records offering a contract to the band. Savage Republic had been dormant for some time and it looked like Seventeen Pygmies was going to attain a level of success that the struggling indie band could only dream of. So it came as a shock to the rest of the bandmembers, who had already booked studio time for the new album, when Drucker announced that he was going on an extended European tour with a re-formed Savage Republic. The tour broke up both bands; Savage Republic had their most bitter arguments in a career with plenty to choose from, and the other members of Seventeen Pygmies felt betrayed by Drucker's inexplicable decision and declared the band dead.

Drucker was left on his own, and given the situation, it is somewhat surprising that he was able to quickly form his next project, the Jackson Del Ray Band. Wickerman, an album of mysterious, atmospheric folk-rock with Celtic overtones, appeared in 1990. The sound here was more complex than anything Drucker had attempted before, with exotic instruments like bagpipes and Ethan James' hurdy-gurdy mixed in with arty rock and dance tracks. At around this time, Drucker reportedly did session work and album production under another name in Chicago, but details are hard to come by. He did do some production work and tour bookings for bands on the Fundamental and Southern Sound labels while working on the next Jackson Del Ray album. Kyrie, an album steeped in mystical religious themes, appeared in 1992. Immediately after its release Drucker disappeared, telling some acquaintances he was moving to Chicago to produce records, others that he was moving to Hawaii to work for an oil company. There have been no further releases under his own name or as the Jackson Del Ray Band, though given Drucker's fondness for pseudonyms it is possible that he remained active in the music industry under another name.